When Vikings returns for its fifth season Nov. 29, it’ll be without its former lead: Ragnar Lothbrok. But, there are hints that Rangar may not be completely gone. Will Ragnar return to Vikings in some capacity? There could be reason to be hopeful if you’re a fan of the character.
Despite fan theories that he may have cheated death and was still alive at the bottom of the snake pit, that turned out to not to be the case. They were fair theories, because Ragnar has cheated death before — doing so in the Season 3 finale during the invasion of Paris, after all. However, the showrunner for the series, Michael Hirst, confirmed Ragnar is dead in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. At the same time, though, he has left the door open for possible future appearances by Ragnar in Season 5 and beyond.
“Because he's such a powerful presence in people's lives, he could reappear in dreams, in visions … I don't think that any of my major characters … I started with — Floki (Gustaf Skarsgard), Ragnar and Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick) and Rollo (Clive Standen) … none of them will ever actually go away or disappear from the saga.”
However, in that same interview, Travis Fimmel, the actor who plays Ragnar, had a very different perspective. When asked if Ragnar could physically reappear, he responded, “Yeah, no, no. I'm not returning. It sort of doesn't make sense. My character is an atheist, so I'm not going to be coming up in any ghost, religious ghostly images or anything.”
But, while getting your information from the horse’s mouth is always a great idea, ultimately, it’s not him that’s making the decisions on how the show continues: that’s Hirst’s job. And, it would appear that Hirst has already enacted his idea that Ragnar could be seen in visions. In an interview with a reporter with Entertainment Tonight, at SAG-AFTRA Foundation’s Conversation with Vikings, Hirst suggested that Ragnar’s death might be revisited in Season 5.
“We’ve shot a scene recently Travis, of where we’ve, to some extent, recreated [Ragnar's death scene] because Lagertha goes and witnesses it herself. So, you [Fimmel] weren’t there, but your voice was there… But, just hearing your voice in that same place, in that same glade in the woods in Ireland, was absolutely chilling for all of us that had been there … a year before.”
Of course, Fimmel knew his death was eventually coming. Hirst spoke to Variety about the last few episodes of Season 4 and shared some details concerning Ragnar’s fate, and how it all worked the way it did. When Fimmel was first brought on "all he had was the first few scripts and the bible for the first season. Now, at the end of the bible for the first season, Ragnar dies,” Hirst said. “So as far as Travis knew, this was just a one-season job. But as soon as we saw the potential, the great actors, it became clear that Ragnar was needed for much longer.”
Some critics are skeptical that Vikings can survive such a drastic change in losing its central character. But, with the characters that remain — like Bjorn, Lagatha, and Ivar — there is plenty of story left to tell. Obviously, Ragnar’s passing leaves a big hole in the series, as he has been the central character of the show for its entire four season run. But, with some creative editing, he could return in some ways if Hirst wants him to. Otherwise, the show's other characters will have to carry things forward for now.